Genna Margolis isn't used to a whole lot of space.
In fact, the New York City native admits her current home — a light, bright standalone abode 40 minutes or so from downtown L.A. — is without a doubt her biggest to date.
"It's the first thing I tell my fellow New York friends," laughs the designer and founder of full-service interiors firm, Shapeside.
Crisp white walls and an earthy, neutral approach to decor and styling runs throughout Margolis' home. It's a cozy, curated space that she shares with her husband, Jon, and adorable pomeranian pup, Bear. Margolis — like many of us — rents her home.
"I actually found this place through sheer luck," the designer explains. "I was helping a friend decorate her nursery, she'd recently moved in to a new house and she mentioned she was in the process of moving out of a really great place in Hancock Park. I wasn’t actually in the market for a new home, but when I saw it, it was perfect."
Step inside the couple's home, and it's hard to believe that Margolis — a designer by trade — hasn't had free rein over the interiors.
Soft, sinuous textures layer the hardwood floors, beautifully balancing the bamboo shades and original wooden beams overhead. A neutral, nuanced approach to furnishings — think soft cotton, layered kilims, and slipcovered linen — ensure Margolis can switch up and swap out her decor with ease, should she need to.
Like most renters, the couple admit they remain mindful of not "overdoing" the tweaks and changes they make to their space — in a bid to ensure they don't lose their security deposit.
"I don’t think there are any real restrictions for renters these days, other than total renovations," explains an optimistic Margolis. "It’s really a matter of how much money you are willing and able to put into your place to give it the look and feel that you want. When we moved in, the window shades were already here, as was the wallpaper, and most of the light fixtures. I decided, for the most part, to make it work, and to design the best I could with what I had."
The master bedroom received a fresh lick of paint, now awash in slate gray, adhering to the natural tones and organic textures throughout. Margolis certainly hasn't bit off more than she can chew, design-wise, but reaffirms the notion that it doesn't take a whole lot to reinvent the house you call home — whether it's forever or otherwise.
"I think what sets this space apart is its character," she explains. "I fell in love with the original, exposed beams, the traditional room layout, and the overall feel of the space. The fact that this is a house, it's not an apartment."
For many of us, rental anxiety is a real thing, it presents its own set of challenges. There's a sense of unrest that often comes with being a tenant — will our lease be renewed? Can we make structural changes? How long is it really going to take me to fill the holes in the wall? It's this perpetual state of in-between that most tenants know all too well.
For Margolis, creating a home with a sense of style and completion is an investment that's paid off. The couple's rental home speaks to their aesthetic, reflects their lifestyle, and ultimately feels like theirs.
Through the french doors and in to the living room, an ornate white fireplace holds pride of place, complete with a tiled hearth. A classic slipcovered white sofa by Pottery Barn, assorted pillows by The Citizenry, and a minimal armchair by Croft House makes for optimal lounging. Nothing about Margolis' space feels overdone, overthought, or unattainable. The home is simple-yet-considered, curated but with a sense of purpose. The tried and true notion that design must first serve function and then aesthetic, is an idea that Margolis tries to live by.
There's nothing transient or particularly nomadic about Margolis' approach to styling. No furniture stored in cupboards or artwork out of sight, biding its time until it gets the call-up or waiting for a more permanent gig — this designer gives her home undivided love and attention — that much is obvious.
"I think renters should invest a bit of money into their space, if they can — you will get a return," Margolis advises. "The more your home feels like it’s actually yours, the more you feel settled and less likely to up and move again. You will want to take advantage of actually living in your space, for much longer than perhaps initially anticipated."
Versatile and ultimately relaxed pieces — sourced everywhere from CB2 to Etsy — decorate the couple's living spaces. A stainless steel coffee table by Kathy Kuo complements a vintage console, a find that Margolis admits is among her "absolute favorites."
"I found it on Etsy, it's originally from an antique store in Palm Beach," she says. "I think I love it because it truly does work with any style or aesthetic, and it has a very authentic look and feel."
Move through to the dining room and the earthy, muted vibes continue. Wall-to-wall toffee-toned wallpaper gives the couple's designated dining space an element of formality — a quirk that Margolis chose not to change upon moving in. Custom cane dining chairs decorate a vintage dining table, while a modern chandelier hovers overhead. A yellow bar cart — by Lulu and Georgia — adds an element of eclecticism.
Inside the master bedroom, a subtle space that echoes a similar look and feel, Margolis reworks old furniture, while the walls are a stoney shade of slate gray. A low-maintenance yet ultimately transformative decision that allowed the designer to create her kind of sacred space.
"I want every room to fill a purpose," Margolis explains. "Usually, your living room and dining area are dedicated spaces for gathering and entertaining — your bedroom feels like a departure from the crowd.
A calm, cool space that you never want to leave. My bed was originally bright yellow — that’s right, yellow — but I wanted to achieve a minimal and moody look. So I used Portola Paints Roman Clay on the walls to give my bedroom that kind of vibe."
A shaggy rug, monochromatic artwork, and assorted textures complete the couple's cool and calming retreat. Crisp white bedding by Parachute Home and a white-washed Urban Outfitters dresser ensures the bedroom feels ultimately cozy. Twin side tables and a pair of white mid-century lamps complete the symmetry, while a tufted gray headboard serves as a grown-up alternative to Margolis' aforementioned yellow bed.
Creating a space to truly relax and unwind has proven an investment worth making for Margolis. Yet, when asked what she'd change about her home if given the green light with zero restrictions?
"Everything!" smiles the designer. "I would start with the floors — I'd like them to be lighter with wider planks, I'd swap out the lighting, renovate the kitchen, and then the bathroom. I've worked with what I had, but if it were totally up to me? Sure, there are things I would do differently."